ARC Reviews

A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland

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ARC was given by NetGalley & Tordotcom in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (August 30th, 2022)

Content/Trigger Warnings: On page depictions of anxiety & panic attacks, depression, loss of loved ones, scene of physical & verbal abuse, graphic violence, depictions of blood, graphic injuries, attempted drugging, scene of kidnapping/abduction, on page racial slur (often used towards Muslims)

Oh boy, where do I even begin with this book, this review, and just… everything. This was not it, friends. I feel like the only person in the room who dislikes this book because every review I see is four or five stars, everyone raving of how amazing this book is. I feel like I’ve read an entirely different book and usually with my romance reads, I devour them in a day or so. Nope, nope, nope, big ole’ NOPE! That was not the case and at the end of reading this book, I feel disappointed and frustrated. So much happens and yet absolutely nothing happens! This book could have been everything, but it fell short for me, greatly.

After a hunting trip gone horribly wrong, Kadou, the prince of Arasht, finds himself feeling lower than he’s ever felt in a long time. Feeling distant from his sister and in a sense, banished from court after this incident, Kadou takes on proving his loyalty to his sister by investigating a break-in at one of their guilds. What Kadou uncovers is much more than just a simple break-in. With his newly appointed body guard, Evemer, they’ll dig deeper into a thickening scheme and maybe even find themselves more drawn to each other than they originally thought.

I really loved a lot of the side characters. The side characters were fantastically done. A lot of these side characters stood out more than our mc and love interest. Kadou’s sister and sultan, Zeliha was a force that commanded attention every time she was in a scene and you could constantly feel the tug-o-war she was having with making certain decisions. Eozena was a really great character that stood out a lot, as well. Captain of the core guard and a close family friend to Kadou and Zeliha, Eozena was delightful to have in scenes. And the banter that would often take place was so good. And probably my favorite, Tenzin, who’s introduced way later in the book was a freaking riot. Tenzin is a truth telling witch and the funny moments she brings to the table was absolute bliss. I adored her so much especially when we get the scene with her and everyone walking back to the palace, pure gold moment! I wish we had been introduced to her far sooner than just getting a few pages with her around. And don’t even get me started on how wonderfully delightful Evemer’s mother was. She was a treat of a side character and definitely underrated!

“I’m getting paid as we speak,” she said with a grin, slouching down into her chair and crossing her arms. “I’m getting paid in chaos.”

The other thing I really loved about this book was the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks. We see these attacks from both Kadou’s perspective and we can see a lot of the outside perspective from Evemer. I really loved the duel perspectives in this case because you could see how things would begin to unfold within Kadou, but then in Evemer’s perspective we would see how those who are closest to Kadou would feel and see them go from not understanding the situation to doing whatever they can to help. It was really well done and the detail of these scenes was really set the tone so the reader could feel what these characters were experiencing.

However, these were the only redeemable qualities of this book I took notes on. And the more I sat on these notes and processed how this book left me feeling, there were so many problems. The issues from itty-bitty to big were stacked high and I couldn’t just overlook them. So I want to address them and hopefully prepare anyone who’s considering picking this book up.

The first thing I want to point out is something minor, but also a huge issue that had no place being used in this book. About 21% into this book, a racial slur is used that is very often used and offensive to Muslims. I really don’t care if the excuse is, “Oh, the MC was drunk, was trying to start a fight, and so they’re going to say these kind of things.” I really don’t care what excuse someone tries to use to justify this because it doesn’t take away the fact that this word is completely unnecessary and hurtful/harmful, but also the fact the author specifically chose this word despite there being plenty of other options instead. It was a lot cringe for me and it soured my reading mood pretty early on in the book.

“The knowledge that one wrong word spoken in fear to someone offering comfort could send shock waves through the whole, like ocean waves after an earthquake.”

My biggest issue with this book has to do with the writing and the duel perspectives. I’m really hoping in the final version of this book, these issues will be done a bit better or even more fleshed out. Usually, I don’t mind books that have two or more perspectives, but it bothers me immensely when the two perspectives blur together and it takes two to three pages before you realize you’re in a different perspective. Typically, perspectives are broken up into their own chapters, sometimes even labelled from who’s perspective you’re in. This is also done very often with books that flash between past and present. However, this is not the case in this book. One chapter holds both duel perspectives and are only broken up by dotted breaks. Sometimes it can take a couple of paragraphs to even a few pages before any distinction is made of who’s perspective you’re reading from. This at times ruined the reading experience for me because it was so hard to tell who’s point of view I was in. A lot of the time the perspective of Kadou and Evemer blended together because some of the time this blending of perspectives would happen in the same space and time as certain events were unfolding. It was really frustrating and it made it hard to enjoy the reading process.

Speaking of characters, this was another issue for me. If you noticed, I never mentioned anything I liked about our MC or the love interest. That’s due to not liking either of them, at all. I found no redeemable qualities for either of them. While I love the accurate portrayal of anxiety and panic attacks in Kadou, that doesn’t make up for everything else about him. Kadou was like watching a train wreck happen. With how much he boasts about all the education he received and how he was trained into being a weapon if necessary, we see those skills one time. Otherwise, we spend countless of moments of him scrambling, not thinking things through, and even causing scenes where he literally causes dangerous situations to unfold because he refuses to actually think and plan. Evemer, on the other hand, felt like a brick wall and it didn’t help that he spent 75%-80% of the book constantly trying to shut down his feelings, his emotions, kept his speech more on the professional side of things, and also spent probably 50%-60% of the book judging everyone except Zeliha. This made it really hard to connect with him or even feel any empathy towards. I did like he was a hard worker and dedicated to his job, but that’s all I really liked about him.

While I really don’t like ranting or complaining about books, since we’re already here, I might as well mention that the people behind everything is revealed pretty early on. Actually, they were revealed just slightly before the 50% mark and kind of killed the entire mystery that was behind the guild break-in. We also have an entire magic system that is never flushed out, we get glimpses of people who have special abilities, and that’s about it. We never see these abilities come into play in big scenes and if they do, the scenes are always very brief and we never really see the full extent of that kind of magic/abilities. Which the world building was even more hard to get behind because it often times felt like it was trying to do too much at once and felt confusing. With that being said, I think that played a huge part it why this book was such a slow read and why I skimmed sections because things felt very dragged out or even at times, an information dump zone.

“I don’t expect I’m going to stop wanting you.”

I also want to take a moment to address the romance in this book. I know a lot of readers say it’s a slow burn and yes, it’s a slow burn alright. The romance is so slow that nothing exciting or even romantical actually happens with Kadou and Evemer until the 70%-75% mark. Although, I wouldn’t even really classify this book as a slow burn romance or even a romance in general. You can’t take the last 30% of a book and call it a romance. For the majority of this book, there was no chemistry with either of these characters. And as I already mentioned with the characters, love and attraction was the furthest thing from both Evemer and Kadou’s minds until the 70-75 percentage way I just mentioned. It just wasn’t what I expected for a romance and for me personally, it was very lacking and at times the romance felt more lust driven than love driven.

Overall, as I mentioned in the beginning, so much happened yet nothing happened all at the same time. Honestly, I wish I could go back in time when I hit the 50% mark, convince myself to ‘dnf’ this book to save myself the trouble of reading this book like I was originally going to. This just wasn’t the book for me, but it really could have been everything and it just missed the mark horrendously. But hey, I read this book so you don’t have to! And if I’m being fully honest, I don’t recommend this book. I think there are other fantasy and romance books that are out there that have better established magic systems, have better slow burn romances than this one does, and don’t leave you with more questions than when you started.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Her Soul for Revenge (Souls Trilogy #2) by Harley Laroux

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Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy #1) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, kink/fetish content (see author’s summary or cw/tw page for details), talk of drugs & drug dealing, mentions of adultry, occult themes, alcoholism, death, stalking, talk of hospitalization/institutionalization, loss of a loved one, grief, trauma/PTSD, depictions of blood, knife play, needles, gun play, talk of torture, violence, sex, anxiety, predator behavior (drugging drink), scene of emesis, scene of snuff (sexual arousal/climax by killing/murdering someone)

“Revenge had been a long time coming.”

Friends, I had been looking forward to this book so, so much. I read the first book and absolutely fell in love with it and was eager to continue this series. Plus, any bread crumbs about the third and final book had my motivation spinning into overdrive. However, this book was definitely not what I had expected and I definitely wasn’t expecting to feel the way I did after reading this. There were a lot of surprises, many tears shed, and maybe a few times where I almost threw my tablet across the room (I didn’t, but oh, there’s just some lines you shouldn’t cross). It was all around a rollercoaster of a time.

The Deep One demands it’s sacrifice… The one who got away… Juniper Kynes has other plans than to have her piece of light blown out all because the majority of the people she thought she knew, all seem to want her dead. Ever since that night, Juniper has been fighting for survival, but her fight isn’t lost on watching eyes. Zane is demon who loves things that are fierce, scarred, and have a history to them. So the story of Juniper has caught his interest not only as demon, but as a soul hunter. And oh, he will have Juniper’s soul and he’s willing to wait for as long as it takes until she’s his. Only problem is, every thing comes with a price and sometimes that means putting your life on the line to take on a god and cult out of control.

I absolutely loved Zane and Juniper together. I love them so much more than Leon and Rae. The way Zane feels about her, how he sees her despite everything she’s been through… it was just wow. It truly was everything. It really brings forth that whole theme of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and there’s so much emphasis from Zane (through Juniper’s perspective and Zane’s own perspective) of how beautiful he thinks people who have been through trauma and how they move on from that is. And it just hit like a ton of bricks. I don’t think there’s enough words to convey how that all made me feel. Not to mention, that these two together flip roles constantly of who’s the dom and sub. Like, how often do you get to see that in steamy time books? Not that often or at least in my case not that often. So that was a really fun time and the chemistry is so dang good.

One of the things I really appreciated about this whole book, even in the first book, was the trauma/PTSD representation. As someone who has permanent PTSD, seeing that in Juniper (also in Leon from the first book) and how she handles a lot of things, how she views herself and her body, it hit really close to home. I saw a lot of myself in Juniper especially with trying to bury the scars under layers of clothes or tattoo work, even building that hard exterior of showing no weakness. It hit like a ton of bricks. Every time I read a book with good PTSD or trauma rep, I get so emotional because there’s still so much stigma around PTSD and trauma, and trying to have conversations about is never easy. So seeing the author include that in these books and handling it so well just makes my heart feel really warm and full.

“Don’t be ashamed of what you want to say. I’m not going anywhere.” And that was the thing, wasn’t it? That was the spark that lit up my dark, dead, broken soul — he’d seen all its sharp edges and hadn’t left. He’d seen me as broken as I was and wanted me, regardless.”

Despite the many good things in the book like the quotes for days, I had two major issues with this book. The biggest issue of this book is that it reads like the first book of the series and it should have been the first book in the series. Having read the first book in this series and comparing it to this one, it would have been so much better for this book to be first. Even more so timeline wise with events and who’s the last to see whom within the book. And in my opinion, the first book sets things up better for the third and final book in this series. That’s the real kick that kind of gets me and has me feeling a little salty. It was a bit disappointing for me especially as someone who like the timeline of things and can really get sucked into the storyline very easy.

My final issue with a particular scene that’s an intimate scene. Typically, I love a lot of stuff that goes down in sexy time books, but not this, this crosses an uncomfortable line for me. The first scene that bothered me I’ve kind of let slide because looking back and reflecting, it’s not too big of a deal. However, this scene I’m about to talk about is and honestly, I think the author should have outright stated that there was a scene like this instead of not mentioning it at all in their own content warnings. At the 70-75% mark there’s a scene of snuff. Now some of you may be going, “What the hell is ‘snuff’?” Snuff is an extreme sexual act of getting a sexual arousal/climax from murdering someone. Now, I originally thought this was bordering into nercophilia territory and had to do some research because this whole scene didn’t feel right and kind of shocked my system. I also had someone else fact check me before I even made notes about it. Even more so, no one has talked or mentioned this scene, at all. So I’m talking and addressing it so others don’t have to. This is not a good scene, at all. It’s a really messed up scene and the author should have done better to actually make it known that this was in the book. And I really wish I could wipe this scene from my mind, but I can’t and now it lives in my memory with the other things I wish I could forget.

“Survival is messy. Survival has no morals or kindness. Survival isn’t black and white, good versus evil. Survival is shades of red; it’s blood taken and blood lost.”

Overall, what a freaking roller coaster of a book. I cried a lot, I cringed a lot, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell I just read. There really was a lot of stuff I loved about this book and I think those who like dark romance erotica will also love it. But also, there’s a lot of things that just live in my brain rent free now. Some of them good, others regrets… yeah, lots of regrets. It was still a good read and as I mentioned with the first book, this series would be the perfect read for the fall/spooky season if you’re in need of books to chill your soul.

Buddy Read with Destiny ♥

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Pisces Hooks Taurus (Signs of Love, #4) by Anyta Sunday

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✨ Leo Loves Aries (Signs of Love #1) ★★★★★
✨  Leo Tops Aries (Signs of Love #1.5) ★★★★★
✨ Scorpio Hates Virgo (Signs of Love #2) ★★★★★
Gemini Keeps Capricorn (Signs of Love, #3) ★★★★

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief scene of aracnophobia (fear of spiders), mentions of bullying (in the past), mentioned horseback riding accident (in the past), brief discussions of death, talk of divorce, talk of adultry (cheating), sexual content

“You hooked me at Toy Story.”

We’re finally back with the fourth book in this series! This was an absolutely adorable slow burn romance! There were so many details that had me smiling and geeking out over what was about to happen next. We get to see cameos of previous characters from the past books which is always such a joy to see. It was just a really great to return to this series and meet some new characters while seeing the ones we’ve met along the way.

“People can be complicated. We can also be ridiculously simple.”

We follow Zane Penn, who’s a little in over his head. Not only is he in a bind of trying to find a new place to move into, but at the end of the month his green card is about to run out and he’ll have to return to New Zealand. Unless he can get married, that is. Enter Beckett who graciously opens his home and offers Zane a place to take harbor. Beckett is a professor at the local collage and is still healing from a divorce, but Zane is determined to help Beckett heal and believe in love again. Even if it means he loses his heart and falls head over heels for Beckett in the process.

I really enjoyed Zane and Beckett as our main characters. They might just be my favorite out of this whole series. They have amazing banter and the chemistry between them is so thick you could cut it with a knife. There were so many memorable moments between that really stuck out with me. I think my favorite would have to be the cinnamon standoff. That was such a fantastic scene that I don’t think I’ll ever get over. I truly believe these two characters were meant for each other. And can I just say how rare it is that we get romance stories where one of the characters is a divorcee. It’s so rare to have story like that and I’m really glad the author decided to take that and make it a part of this story.

Some of the themes in this book were fantastic like Zane discovering his self-worth and leaving an employer who constantly put Zane down about his work. Zane did a lot of work to figure out his own worth and chase after what he really wanted. Even by the end of the book he was still working on himself. I think my favorite theme has to be the one centered around Beckett. There’s a whole theme of of healing after you’ve been devastatingly hurt by someone you once loved. Beckett’s theme constantly sucked the air out of my lungs because watching everything unfold, watching Beckett rediscover love, and watching him a safe harbor with Zane was absolutely everything. And seeing Zane be patient, never giving up on Beckett was literally everything. The soft, healing moments Zane and Beckett have with one another was so wholesome, and everything.

“I was supposed to be charming your pants off. Yet you’re literally charming off mine.”

I did have some issues with this book though. I think the biggest thing was this book really being a slow burn and it was even emphasized throughout the book that it was a slow burn. Most of the steamy, spicy scenes didn’t happen probably till the 75% mark within this book. That’s how much of a slow burn this is. I think that was my most frustrating thing about this book because it just gave a feel of running circles around the actual romance and chemistry. The other thing I struggled with, that I actually had to research and ask a few people about, was the constant reference of ‘Kiwi’ throughout this book. I was so confused and I’m glad I actually researched and talked to a few people because I probably would have been very clueless if I hadn’t. For those who don’t know, like myself, Kiwi is in reference to those who are from New Zealand. I had no idea about this and now I do, but oh, I was so lost and confused for a hot minute with that being constantly repeated throughout the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book. As always, I have a wonderful time reading about this characters, reading their independent stories and seeing the cameos, and of course, I’m eager to finish this series. I think we have one last book in the series to read (excluding the novellas in between each book). If you haven’t checked out this series, I strongly recommend doing so. There’s so much lgbtqiap+ representation throughout this series and I just love this series with my whole chest.

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Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy, #1) by Harley Laroux

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This post contains affiliate links; if you use the Amazon link to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Thanks for reading!

Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, kink/fetish content (see author’s summary or cw/tw page for details), anxiety, captivity/enslavement (demon mc), talk of torture, indications of trauma/PTSD, cult themes, brief mentions of underage drinking, death, murder, talk of suicide, graphic gore & violence, depictions of blood, scene of decapitation, brief mentions of drug use (in the past), attempted drugging (drugged drink), scene of emesis, scene of needles

Side Note: Please check out the author’s personal content warnings for the kink/fetish play within this book for more details before reading!

“… but within those pages, in the dark, those golden eyes still shone.”

Look, are you really surprised I found myself in this rabbit hole? Are you really surprised? It was bound to happen eventually! It has demons, Lovecraftian themes, the female lead is a paranormal investigator for Pete’s sake! The banshee screeches that have erupted from me from having this literature at my finger tips has been nothing short of an experience, to say the least. Truly, it’s been a while since I’ve had a piece of literature that felt very on brand to my soul. I loved this, I loved this so much. I had to sit a think about my rating because I was very torn and I just have to be honest, I really freaking loved this book and this might be my favorite series to have demons in it thus far.

We follow the perspective of Leon, a demon who’s summoned and held captive by the local cult of Abelaum, Libiri, run by Kent Hadleigh, the head of one of the founding families in this small town. With the grimoire, the last known book with a physical record of Leon’s name, in Kent’s hands, Leon is forced to do the cult’s bidding. That’s until the grimoire goes missing. Enter our second perspective of paranormal investigator, Rae. A college student moving back to her hometown after being gone for seven years. With the promising potential of paranormal activity and whispers of strange creatures being seen in the local woods, Rae is determined to catch real paranormal activity on camera to help boost her blog and of course, finish her last year at university. So when her best friend, Inaya hands her a grimoire, suddenly Rae may be having second thoughts of being thrown into the world of the paranormal… or she just might be falling pretty damn hard in love with it.

These characters were absolutely fantastic read about! The duo perspective in this book definitely added to my enjoyment of these characters. Between our two main characters, Leon stood on the most to me. Not only is his personality very attention catching, but there were so many passages in this book that just hit home for me. When Leon would talk about wanting to find the grimoire and how much he values his freedom, it instantly, made me think of Genie from Aladdin. In the movie, there’s a conversation between Aladdin and Genie about the wishes and Aladdin asks Genie what they would wish for to which Genie responds with, “Freedom. But, oh, to be free! To be my own master. Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world.” It made me really connect with Leon’s character, really love and appreciate his character build, and I don’t think that was the author’s intention when writing Leon’s character, but oh I couldn’t help myself from seeing the resemblance. On the other hand, Rae was an okay character for me. Honestly, I thought I would enjoy her character more, but there were parts in this book where I was just like, “I can’t deal with you.” I do like that she’s a paranormal investigator and how passionate she is about that, and I adore her cat, Cheesecake.

“I’ll rip Heaven and Hell and this goddamn Earth apart before I let them steal you from me.”

Speaking of characters, there’s some really amazing side characters we get to witness in this book. I freaking adore Zane. Zane is like a calmer, more level headed demon compared to Leon. However, Zane’s relationship with Leon was perfection. I’m very hungry for a novella talking about their past and their relationship to one another because they’re such a dynamic duo in their own way. There’s also Inaya, she’s not only best friends to Rae, but she runs her own bookstore, Golden Hour Books. Her character was absolutely wonderful and I would have loved to see more of her in this book. Plus, the few times we do meet her, you can tell how much she cares about all of her friends and just how far she’d go for them. And of course, I have to mention Everly because I just want to know so much more about her. I mean, she’s a witch and she’s here to rock this world! Before I forgot, I need to talk about Kent. Kent is a terrible character and he reminds me so, so much of Joseph from Dream Daddy. If you know, you know. Kent just gives me all the bad vibes and honestly, he made for a good villain in this book.

I want to circle back to Leon and his constant focus on his freedom. Not only is there such a heavy emphasis on demons valuing their freedom, but with Leon there’s an underlying theme of trauma/PTSD. Not just that trauma, but how after all of that you can still find love, happiness, or contentment. We see this theme unfold from both perspectives. We have Leon who has spent centuries being tortured and used only to find sanctuary with Rae. Rae’s side of things is different because she’s just dealing with a break up, but we see this escalate with how everything unfolds for Rae throughout this book. We see how this very snarky demon becomes a sanctuary for her in the chaos of all of this. I think the trauma/PTSD representation is done very well even though it’s subtle and not many readers have picked up on it. And I want to say that this is one of those relationships where two broken individuals can heal one another and have a good relationship with one another.

There’s also an entire theme of consent throughout this book. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but consent is super attractive. From the very beginning, Leon constantly asks if Rae is okay with the things they do intimately and constantly makes sure she knows the safe word before anything even happens. I don’t know about anyone else, but I love characters who check to make sure they’re comfortable or they’re okay with proceeding into more spicy things. It’s super attractive and often times in a lot of romance or erotica they’re just instantly jumping into the sheets. I really enjoyed how the author gave us spice, but also made sure to sprinkle the consent in throughout this book.

“You’re a light in the dark, and I’ve been in the dark a vert long time.”

Speaking of spicy scenes, this book has a lot of spicy scenes, If you thought there were only going to be a few scenes sprinkled in then guess what, that’s not the case here! It was a fun time for me and the entire time I was just hyped. However, I will say the scene where Leon was giving Rae her piercings was not my thing. For me, that was very triggering just due to my own bad experience, but I do like how the author tried to give this scene balance of it not only being about the that whole commitment, but Leon and Rae becoming closer to one another. So I think this will be one of those hit or miss things for many readers.

If I had to fault this book on anything, it would have to be Rae’s character. Look, it has to be said, Rae made some really questionable choices and acted really reckless a lot of the time. Actually, I liked Rae’s character up until the last handful of chapters. It was like the closer it got to the end of the book, Rae just got more naive and was making really poor choices. It was frustrating a lot of the time and as I mentioned earlier, it made it really hard to like her character. Also, it almost painted Rae in a light of hypocrisy because she’s not only a paranormal investigator, but she’s also a horror lover and the way she acts is entirely different to most horror and paranormal lovers I know. I think a lot of readers are going to feel frustrated with her character and wish that she had been structured different especially near the end of this book.

“But with your soul, death can’t touch you. The God can’t touch you. Nothing, nothing will take you from me.”

Overall, I had a really fun time buddy reading this with my friend. It was such a captivating read and I love the pre-setup we get to see for the second book in this series. I’m just hyped about this whole series, okay! I usually don’t read a lot of dark romances, but if and when I do, I always want them to have snarky demons in it. I think many lovers of dark romance are going to enjoy this book and this whole series. I hear book two has to do with Zane and I can’t begin to express how excited I am about this!

Buddy Read with Destiny

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ARC Reviews

Eternally Hers: The Prequel to Shallow Cove™ Dimensions by January Rayne

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ARC was given by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss of loved ones, grief, violence, sexual content, mentions of suicide, depictions of blood, scene of complicated child birth, brief mentions of witch trials

“I am lost and locked out of the world. But my love will remain eternally hers.”

Look, if you told me I would be picking up a vampire romance book in 2022… I probably would have cackled and went off to buy a coffee because surely I was lacking caffeine in my system, and needed a wake me up. Yet here we are, in 2022 and I probably just read the the best vampire prequel thus far in my time of reading. And no, I’m no exaggerating. I’ve read a lot of vampire books over my years of reading and honestly, I’m really glad the author reached out to have me read this because I had just about given up on vampires, and vampire books.

Our story follows Severide Monreaux, who’s just been thrust in to a world of sadness and grief. With the death of his mother, his father thrusts the position of clan leader upon, the very position that he never wanted to earn in at the expense of his father. Severide must find a mate to make his clan strong again and with his mother and father’s dying wish hang over his head, he finds himself attending a party that makes him wish he was anywhere, but there. Will Severide find a mate? Who’s to say. With no witch to the clan, the werewolves threaten too tear the his clan apart, and now a warlock from the past has returning to claim a debt that’s owed… What else can a new clan leader do?

“Once our hands lock, my breath is taken from me as warmth now replaces the frozen tundra that has recently blocked my heart off from the world around me.”

Let me start by saying this is a prequel novella to the Shadow Cove Dimensions ™ where we follow the trials of love, loss, and hardships surrounding the Monreaux family, a vampire clan of Salem. This isn’t a full novel, so don’t expect this to be a very long read. This novella is very fast paced and even has time skips to show the change of time moving or passing. Personally, I’m usually not a fan of any kind of book that has time skips, but I found that it worked quite well for this novella. And the way this novella sets things up for the books to come, the plots to come, the possible potential feels endless. I haven’t been this excited about a series and the future books in a hot minute. I feel like a child let loose in a candy store. And the conclusion to this novella ends on a cliffhanger that leaves you craving more.

Speaking of the Monreaux family, this character cast was fantastic. Though we have quite a few faces to keep track of and keep our eyes on, each one has their own personality including the antagonists of the story. They all stand out in their own unique. With the mention of following a vampire clan, in this world we also have witches, warlocks, and werewolves. How all these paranormal beings interact with one another is truly intriguing. Vampire clans have a duel reliance with witches to incorporate their magic together to make a vampire clan strong, and protected. There also seems to be a mirrored relationship between warlocks and werewolves, as well. But don’t quote me on that. There might be more to this that meets the eye. As I said, it’s very intriguing. And Severide as our main character was perfection. Devoted, protective, but also flawed. Chef’s kiss, all the chef kisses!

“Happiness and lust are born from this woman.”

I love a little bit of spice with my paranormal and this book delivers so deliciously. I absolutely adored the spicey scenes within this novella. It was such a treat to see Severide and his mate not only equals in their positions, but also in their private moments, was such a refresher. The balance between them was probably one of my favorite things about this novella especially with how often in adult romances there’s usually a more dominant character while the other is more passive/subtle. And we don’t get that here. They both give and take, constantly changing between them and it was very attractive to say the least.

My only real complaint about this novella would be how short it is and it’s not so much the case of not getting enough of these characters, but more so having a lot of questions and not enough answers. There were a few things I wished were flushed out more such as more details on the feud between vampires and werewolves or even Brenden Hall, a warlock Severide knows from his past. I would have liked more details in this area and even more details about Sarah Wildes would have provided better understanding of her importance. There’s characters I wish we would have seen more of and had more details of, Luca and Greyson, who play major roles in the story yet it felt like we hardly see them or know them. I’m holding out hope they’ll have their own books in this series especially with some of the moments we see with Greyson that were a bit mysterious. Truly, this novella probably could have benefitted even more with more pages or chapters added to it. And I think that due to how fast paced and short this is, I think many readers will see these same issues and hoping for more details on characters and events in the future.

Overall, I had a fantastic time reading this novella. I went in with low expectations because most vampire books haven’t really been tickling my fancy including the steamy adult romance ones, but this was a pleasant surprise. The world was fascinating, the characters were captivating, and I’m eager to see what the first book in this series has in store for us. As I mentioned, I think there will be readers who will have issues with this novella because it’s short, fast paced, and it feels like certain characters or events aren’t given enough details. Again, more questions than answers, but it was still an overall fun time reading. If you’re like me, struggling to get back into reading books with vampires, I definitely recommend giving this novella a chance. Truly, a captivating time!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Theirs for the Night (Twisted Hearts #1) by Katee Robert

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual content, talk of poverty/financial struggles, child neglect (in the past)

“You can’t fall in love with a person – let alone two people – in a single night.”

Oh what a fun, steamy time this was! Every time I pick up Robert’s books, I always have a fun time and honestly, that’s why I read them, for a fun time. Plus, to be more transparent and honest, I love reading books with polyamorous relationships and that’s a side of me I don’t often share or discuss, and I’d like to. And it was just a good book to unwind with.

Meg Sanders is too busy and has far too many worries on her plate to even think of partying, let alone celebrating her very own birthday. Until her co-worker and friend, Cara convinces here that she needs a night to forget her troubles and just unwind. Little did Meg expect, two sets of eyes watching her from afar, wanting to take her home for a night of pleasure. Theo and Galen are keeping a low profile, that is until they both set their eyes on Meg. Afterall, who could resist a gorgeous woman in a red dress? If they only have one night, the three of them are going to make it one hell of a night to remember!

I loved, LOVED Galen and Theo as love interests, potential partners to Meg. I’ll be honest, I do have a bar that’s set kind of high when it comes to poly-relationships and all three of them hit pretty close. The fact that Galen and Theo already have a preexisting relationship with one another was the icing on the cake for me. You can see flickers of the history between the two. Not just in the sense how tight their friendship is with one another, but also the bond and pull, that attraction that crackles and sizzles underneath the surface. Also, I want to take a moment to point out that Galen has visual scarring and for me, that’s not only something that attracts my attention, but characters who have scars and it just is what it is, that’s a huge thing for me. I always want to appreciate those details when an author does that. Meg, on the other hand, felt like a wild card to me. While Meg does come off as lacking confidence and being unsure of her own desires, she has no problem flipping a switch and just diving head first into savoring both of these men. I really enjoy when characters have a switch they just flip. Seeing Meg do that I was like, “Okay boo, I see you! Go get your men!”

“They always seemed to know where the other was, and both kept a careful distance between them and her, touching only on her hips and nowhere else.”

I want to take a moment to show a little appreciation to Meg’s coworker and friend, Cara. I find that not many authors write supportive, but also encouraging side characters for main characters when it comes to romance. There’s a particular scene that really stuck out to me where Cara pulls Meg away from Theo and Galen, pulls her to the bathroom and is ready to fight people if they hurt Meg. Yet, supports Meg and encourages her to go gets these men after Meg expresses this is what she wants, but it still willing to drive the getaway car if Meg needs it. I absolutely adore side characters like this and I wish they got more appreciation because they deserve it.

It’s steamy, very warm and steamy! Fogging up every glass window from heavy breathing. Is it the greatest sex scenes of all time? Maybe not because everyone has their own preferences for spice and steam, but if you’re looking for a fun time then this can definitely be thrown into the mix. I might be a bit bias and may have been referencing my own experiences with poly-relations, but I had a really wonderful time with this. From the moment these three characters meet, everything is a steady, slow build and almost everything they do has chemistry and sexual desire crackling between them. Whether this is from the way they dance with one another or how they all play with each other behind closed doors. It’s just a fun time and really easy to get caught up in the scenes.

“He really was beautiful in the way of fallen angels. But a fallen angel was just a prettier name for a demon.”

Overall, this was a delightful, fast read for me! I had such a wonderful time diving into the story, savoring how everything was playing out, seeing the little secrets being hinted at, just a fun time. Again, this series isn’t going to be for everyone. I still recommend picking the first book (this book) up if you’re looking for books for Smutathon, reading sprints, or you’re just looking for a steamy good time. I enjoy Katee’s writing and the characters she writes. It’s always a good time for me and I love recommending her books to others.

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Demon Lover by Heather Guerre

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death of a parent, child abandonment, negligent/absent parent, infidelity (of a side character), references to historical enslavement and violence against enslaved people, sex/sexual scenes, sexual predator behavior (from a coworker), toxic work environment, mentions loss of a parent, scenes talking about self-harm/suicide

“Demons aren’t real. Awkward, generous sex demons are definitely not real. And yet…”

*sips tea* This was a read that was bound to happen, friends. If you’ve been here a hot second then you know how much I adore books with demons or anything pertaining to creatures of the Underworld. And who could have predicted that for the romantic, lovey season I’d be sitting here recommending a sexy incubus novella to all of you lovely souls? I really loved this novella and probably one of the fastest novella reads I’ve done in a while. So many things to love packed into this book and we’re going to talk about it!

Autumn is down on her luck. She recently broke up with her ex-boyfriend for cheating on her, has lost most of her friends who chose her cheating ex over her, and now she’s stuck in a run down apartment, and dealing with a non-profit that provides a very unfriendly work environment for her. The only thing Autumn has to look forward to is going home every night to fall asleep to spicy, sexy dreams that leave her waking up feeling refreshed, in more ways than one. Until she realizes that an incubus is the reason behind her sexy dreams and manages to pull him out of the dream world. Now, Autumn finds herself with more questions than answers and on top of that, falling in love with the very Incubus she summoned.

“It was through dreams that she had met Irdu. And it was through dreams that she would find him again.”

These characters were so good to follow and watch unfold in various ways. Though Autumn is hurting from the bad breakup, she’s a really talented artist and we get to see her talk about that. She also talks about her personal life with her family, how she miss her father and her grandparents’ home, and how her family used to celebrate the holidays. Learning more about the main character through the natural progression of the book and her building her relationship with Irdu was really wholesome and hit a soft spot for me. Then we have a our illustrious incubus, Irdu. Irdu was just chef’s kiss! Irdu is a character who gets a wonderful character development and he always asks consent when it comes to doing anything with our main character. Also, he has such a captivating, but also heartbreaking backstory that ties in with the mythology that was used within this book.

Speaking of consent, it made the intimate scenes ten times better. I’m a big lover of scenes of consent in literature and seeing a main character, who’s also the love interest, be so adamant about consent really made those scenes even better for me. Now, the sex scenes in this novella are just the right amount of spicy, sexy, but also key to the main character and love interest building their relationship, and their closeness to one another. Also, these scenes aren’t that overwhelming which is really nice for readers who aren’t big fans of sexy, intimate scenes in book.

I think my only issue I had with this read, like with all novellas, is how much I wished it was longer. Due to reading this so fast, I was left wanting more and craving that extra 30-50 pages to be able to consume these characters just a little longer. Also, I feel like the timing of bringing Autumn’s ex-boyfriend in the pictures was too close to the ending of the story. I think I would have liked him to come around more-so around the middle of the book compared to closer near the end, and around the more holiday scenes of this book. This would have given us the chance to see more of his character and the potential of what could have happened after his exit. So it felt like there was some wasted possibilities with his character.

Overall, wow, this was such a good read! I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and even more surprised there aren’t more readers talking about this novella. The mythology of the story as whole was so fascinating and has me intrigued to learn more about it. The relationship and intimate scenes were just chef’s kiss. There’s just so, so much to fall in love with this novella and I truly believe this author could have turned this into a full blown novel if they wanted to. If you love books surrounding incubi/demons and you’re a fan of paranormal romances then I can’t recommend this novella enough. Such a delicious read!

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When Snowflakes Fall (The Graysons #1) by Tara Wyatt

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Sexual scenes, talk of divorce, mentions of mental and emotional abuse, mentions of harassment, talk of online harassment, mentions of doxing, hospital themes

“He felt like he was losing himself in the shining depths of her eyes, like he was being pulled in and that if he looked away, everything around them might come crashing down.”

Yes friends, it’s true, I’m on a holiday read kick and I have to say, if you haven’t added this novella to your winter tbr yet then you need to fix that right away. If you’ve been here a while, then you know how much of a sucker I am for read that have single parent households and on top of that, this is a romance novella. Yes please! I was here for this story from the first few lines of the novella’s description. Truly, I loved this story a heck-a-ton!

Settled in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Luke Grayson is doing what any single father is trying to do, be the best dad he can be to his son, Ethan, to make up for the absence of Ethan’s mother. So when Luke receives a call that his son is in the hospital with a potential concussion, the last thing Luke was anticipating was to find love, that is until he meets Christie. Christie Harmon has had a rough past. Forced to leave her hometown and start life anew, Christie refuses to have history repeat itself. There’s just one problem, one very handsome, charming, problem. Luke Grayson. Two people with rocky pasts will come together to chip away at each other’s walls and find out what true love really is like.

I adored the characters in this book. I think this is one of the things I say the most, but anytime there’s characters who come across as morally grey or imperfect, the more realistic feeling, I absolutely fall in love. Both of these characters have their flaws and we get to see both of these characters work through the doubts, chasing what will make them happy. Even in the dark times, they work through it even if it’s a little messy or the voices inside them are telling them ‘no’.

I think one of the biggest things I loved about this theme is the small town vibes and the sense of importance of family. Yes, this is a holiday read, but I loved that there were so many things centered around family. Speaking of family, if I haven’t mentioned already, Luke is actually a single father. I love every time an author decides to take the ‘single family’ route and even more so when it’s a single father. Single fathers just don’t get the attention they deserve in literature and every time I find a story with that little gem inside, it makes my heart warm and fuzzy. Not like single family household themes don’t already give me the warm fuzzies, but I always want to show my appreciation for those themes.

“Use the peoples who love you as your mirror. Not the people out to cut you down. The reflection they’re showing you is tainted and not worthy of your time.”

There’s also a heavy theme of how heavily our past can weigh on us and impact our present and future. How, despite handling everything the best we can, it can come full circle or still weighs us down even when we’re starting anew. I really appreciated the author taking that theme and really showing us that you can have anchors that pull you, but you can still find happiness, you can still keep healing in the now. And most importantly, I think the author did a wonderful job of expressing how the people who caused you harm aren’t a reflection of you as a person. The author really took the time to express that the people who you love and choose to surround yourself with will always reflect your heart’s intentions.

I think my only issue with this book was how short it was. I’m not going to lie, I wanted a little bit more from this novella. Give me 40-50 more pages and I probably would have been content. However, I recognize that this is a novella, but still, I was craving more details with this read.

Overall, this was a really cozy, holiday read to snuggle up with. I enjoyed grabbing a cup of hot chocolate and snuggling down to get in the holiday spirit with this book. Plus, it’s such a fast read and perfect for getting in end of the year reads. And again, single parent theme! It’s an absolute must read for your holiday tbrs!

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Sweet on You: A Filipino Christmas romance by Carla de Guzman

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ARC was provided by NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published before the release date (October 19th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one (in the past), sexism, mentions of divorce (in the past), abandonment, mentions of body shaming (in the past), sex

Oh, I loved this! I loved this so much, with my whole heart and soul. I’m a big softy for books that involve coffee shops, cafes, and bakeries. There’s something that reminds me of home when these elements are thrown in. Throw in the sibling bonds and the importance of family, *chef’s kiss* perfection! Truly, this is sure to make it onto so many reading lists as we approach closer to the holidays. It truly is an adorable read!

Set in the Philippines, Sweet On You follows two shop owners forming a rivalry between each other. When the empty store next to Sari’s cafe sells, Sari doesn’t like the thought of competition or change one bit. Then she meets the owner, Gab, the baker extraordinaire, and in that moment their rivalry is set in stone. Soon, the prank wars begin! But while these two are lost in the tide of pranks, everyone around them begins to question on whether or not this is actually a courtship. And that might be true! Even though they’re knees deep in pranks, they just can’t help themselves from flirting with one another.

🧁 Sari Tomas – The cafe owner of Tomas Coffee Co., who doesn’t like change and tries to avoid it at all cost. But over the next ten days leading up to Christmas, big changes throw her into a whirlwind. It started with Sunday Bakery opening next door, then her younger sister, Sam announced she’s moving out. With all these changes, Sari can’t help feeling everything is moving on with life, everyone except her.

But the Laneaways had wriggled its way into his heart, and the person standing across from him was one of the biggest reasons why.”

🧁 Gabriel Capras – The owner of Sunday Bakery, who’s been trying to prove to his father that he can be professional and financially successful baker. With big dreams and goals keeping him motivated, Sunday Bakery is his first step to making those dreams come true. There’s just one problem, he never expected someone like Sari Tomas to wiggle their way into his heart.

Amidst all the pranks, these two rivals will start to find it impossible to spend their days without thinking of one another. Every thought with flash to some moment of the time these two have spent together, spicing up each others days. Even the hard days will be a little less hard. After all, baked goods and coffee speaks volumes to the soul!

I really loved our two main characters! Their personalities were absolutely fantastic and you could instantly tell the chemistry these two characters had. Both of these characters are like wizards in their own kitchens and the scenes we get of them making coffee or food were fantastic. Also, I really enjoyed the way these two characters talked about their siblings, how much love radiates from them throughout this book, and I loved seeing our main characters reconnecting with their siblings and family. It really warms my heart and I couldn’t help feeling soft, and a bit sappy about it.

“But most of all, I can’t imagine being here without you. You’re home to me now.”

And the way these characters fall in love with one another is hilarious yet so wholesome. They try so hard not to fall for each other and seeing them come together was so sweet. There’s something about a slow fall and then fast that really lures me in. The way the author wrote it, gave me everything I wanted from their romance. They had some hilarious moments, but they had some really endearing moments. The really steamy moments were perfect and there were some moments in those steamy scenes that got me a little choke up. I will say, if you’re not a fan of sexy times in books then this might not be the book for you. There are at least two major sexy moments in this book and if that impacts your reading, just know that those are in this book.

Of course, there’s the food featured in this book. A book has never made me look up so many foods that quickly. If someone were to open my browser right now, they’d just find countless pages of all the Filipino food. The way food is talked about in this book is so heavenly, so deliciously, that I recommend you read this on a full stomach. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting there wanting to take a bit out of your book. I also loved the way Gab named some of his baked goods after his siblings. I thought that was the sweetest thing and I’m not going to lie, a little swoon worthy.

Overall, I had such a great time reading this snuggly, cozy, holiday romance! I loved so much about this book and I think many readers are going to enjoy curling up with this book. I think this book will really make the reader want to travel and I know this makes me eager to pick more books up by this author. I really loved the culture throughout this book and I’m excited to see what her other books have in store especially if its romance! I definitely recommend picking this book up during this holiday season especially if you’re looking for a book to brighten you day up!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1) by Alyssa Cole

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death of parents (in the past), loss of a loved one (in the past), grief, abandonment, racism, sexism, talk of animal death and experimentation, disease epidemics, stalking, mentions of gaslighting, colonialism, mentions of colonization, brief mentions of sacrifice, trauma, and poisoning

“If only these pesky spam emails would stop showing up in her inbox, claiming an African prince wants to marry her…”

I mentioned this before in my review for When No One Is Watching, I never read anything by Alyssa Cole before. In fact, I started both of these books at the same and ended up really enjoying both experiences! A Princess in Theory was such a fantastic read. I was pleasantly surprised and I really had a fun time getting to know these characters. I’m even more excited to say that I’m eager to continue on with the rest of the series because of my reading experience was so enjoyable. This book was funny, spicy, enthralling, has important topics, and all packed into this one book!

👑 Naledi Smith – After the passing of her parents, Ledi grows up in foster care with faint, distant memories of the family she once knew. Starting a promising future in New York, as a grad student majoring in epidemiology, she somehow manages to find the balance between working non-stop in the lab, waitressing, and studying.

👑 Prince Thabiso – An actual prince from Africa and the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo. With his parents badgering him to settle down and start a family, Thabiso has been unable to forget the girl who was promised to marry him, who has been absent for most of his life.

These two characters finally come together when Thabiso and Likotsi, Thabiso’s assistant, end up tracking Ledi down to New York. Thabiso decides to travel to New York, not just to handle some business, but to find Ledi and confront her. The moment they meet, sparks fly and from there we see a slow burn romance blossom.

“Everybody wants something from you, but sometimes there’s a person you want to give to. Sometimes what you give them makes you better for having given it. And it makes having to give to everyone else not so bad.”

I loved Naledi as our main character. She was such an easy character for me to fall in love with. From working hard to wanting to succeed in her career, she stole my heart from page one. Despite the hardships she’s endured, she still has a kindness about her and I loved how she kept two lab mice. I thought it was the most precious thing. Thabiso was a character I struggled to warm up to. The moment he lied about his identity, it put me on pins and needles. I found myself siding with Likotsi a lot during parts of Thabiso’s povs in the beginning. However, as we get further into the story, I started to appreciate how Thabiso handled the political game and how we get to see him show his caring side.

The chemistry between these two characters was so good! Ledi and Thabiso click from the moment they meet, and the author does an amazing job at creating a slow burn romance between them. I also loved how we got to see Ledi fall in love with Thabiso, but I also appreciated how Thabiso refused to give up on her. The moments of deep conversation they got to share were some of my most favorite moments throughout this book.

Aside from the romance, we have a lot of important topics being addressed throughout this book. One of the biggest topics we see immediately in this book, is the racism and sexism Ledi endures while she works towards her dream. Every time Ledi is in the lab, Ledi’s white male supervisor constantly puts Ledi in a position of picking up extra tasks and project to pick up the slack from her other colleague. This does get challenged later on in the book and it was pretty satisfying to see Ledi stand up for herself.

Then we have a topic that hit really close to my heart and I did get a little emotional reading some of these parts. Ledi has to experience what it’s like to grow up apart from a culture she’s never known. She sees the imbalances between Thabiso and her family backgrounds. From wealth and power to everyone having more knowledge of the story, her parents, etc… than she does. This hit so close to home for various reasons and I really loved how Alyssa Cole packed so much feeling behind those moments.

“It’s hard losing a friend.” Ledi said quietly. “If it’s your significant other, you’re allowed to grieve. But people act like best friends are a dime a dozen, and if you lose one you can just replace them with another.”

And of course, I have to talk about how well the grief handled in this book. Grief is very much laced throughout this book and I loved how Alyssa Cole added so many sides to that grief. We have Ledi who still feels the absent of her parents and feels the weight of that loss. On the opposite side, we Thabiso and Likotsi experience the grief instantly upon learning about the passing of Ledi’s parents. Then we have the Queen of Thesolo. I think she was my favorite because we usually never see the angry side of grief in books and we never see how those two emotions come together when someone lashes out. We see the Queen target Ledi and treats her unfairly because of her grief and her pain, but that behavior is always challenged and we get a moment between Ledi and the Queen that made me so emotional. I think Alyssa Cole did an amazing job with the grief representation in this book.

Overall, I could probably keep talking about this book with a couple more paragraphs, but I will spare you all! This was such a great read and written so beautifully. There’s so much packed into these pages like the asking for consent, the conversations around colonization, and the bond between Ledi and Nya. Plus, Nya is a side character who’s chronically ill. There was just so many wonderful things that I love. I think many romance readers are going to love this book and be eager to read this series. And I’m so, so thankful that many of my friends recommended I jump on this series!

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